It was called the “End of History”, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. An event long hoped for in the West but that few expected to ever see. The United States, European Union and Canada all poured billions of dollars into Russia’s development. Russia was invited to join the G7 making it the G8 in 1998. Vladimir Putin became Russia’s Prime Minister in 1999 (the same year NATO expanded into the former East bloc) and its President in 2000.
In the 17 years he has been in power Putin has become more authoritarian, and in Russia at least, more popular. He described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.” He hosted the lavish 2014 Sochi Olympics and then seized Crimea from Ukraine. Putin worked with the US to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and then sent his troops to help President Assad maintain grip on power. Now Russia, under Putin, is accused of using its “cyber-power” to undermine the 2016 US Presidential election.
Where is Putin leading Russia? Was the West suffering from post-Cold War naiveté or did it betray Russia by expanding NATO and reaching too far into former USSR territory, such as Ukraine?
To help answer these questions the CIC National Capital Branch is pleased to welcome Stephen Kotkin, a highly sought after Russian specialist: Professor in History and International Affairs at Princeton University, director of its Institute for International and Regional Studies and co-director of the Program in the History and Practice of Diplomacy. The New York Times said the just published second volume of his Stalin trilogy Stalin: Waiting for Hitler: “will surely stand for years to come as a seminal account of some of the most devastating events of the 20th century.”
What, if anything, is the Difference between Fascism and Communism?’
Do we really know the answer? Two opposing political projects have framed that question. One equates fascism and communism as totalitarianism; the other proffers a heroic portrayal of communism as anti-fascism. The first delegitimates the left, the second legitimates it. But there is a different story, one rooted in a history that has always been there, if less visible. That history has to do with the stabilities and instabilities of illiberalism, of the interplay between authoritarianism, private property, and aggrieved nationalism, which is always more populous and passionate than any transnational ideology. Is there really something new going on now today?
Part 1: Stalin was born in a small town in Georgia in which he was educated to become a priest. After succeeding in school and becoming a devout follower of the faith, Stalin left the priesthood and became a communist revolutionary. World War I and the revolutions of 1917 set the stage for Stalin and the Communists to take power in Russia.
On this special occasion, we were pleased to feature our new Eurasia Fellow for 2018, Stephen Kotkin, an outstanding lecturer and scholar. Professor Kotkin has been teaching in the History Department at Princeton since 1989, and holds a joint appointment at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs, where he has been vice dean.
Two volumes of his trilogy on Stalin have been published to critical acclaim — Stalin: Paradoxes of Power (2014) and Stalin: Waiting for Hitler (2017) – as have his earlier books, Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment (2009); Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse (2008), and Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (1995).